Judges cut sentence of death crash driver

Floral tributes near the junction of Warrington Road and Clapgate Lane
Floral tributes near the junction of Warrington Road and Clapgate Lane

A SPEEDING motorist who caused the death of two Wigan pals walking home from the pub has had his driving ban halved by top judges on appeal.

Christopher James Houghton, 27, received a 24-week suspended sentence at Liverpool Crown Court after admitting two counts of causing death by careless driving in December last year.

He was also banned from driving for three years.

Houghton’s victims were Terry Charlton, 66, and Les Hutton, 62, who were fatally injured in the February 2011 accident while crossing a busy stretch of Warrington Road, Goose Green.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting with Mr Justice Maddison and Judge Anthony Russell QC in London’s Appeal Court, said it was dark and raining heavily when the two men left a nearby pub in the early evening.

Houghton had performed an undertaking manoeuvre seconds before the tragedy, although there was nothing dangerous about the way he did that, said the judge. However, he was driving at around 39mph in a 30mph speed zone, and simply failed to see the two men as they crossed the dual carriageway and failed to stop in time to avert catastrophe.

Houghton stopped immediately after the collision and told onlookers he “just didn’t see the two men,” the court heard.

He had his two children in the car with him at the time, said the judge, who added that the tragedy was caused by Houghton’s “momentary inattention.”

Houghton, of Sidmouth Grove, Wigan, was left haunted and emotionally scarred by the double tragedy, said Lord Justice Burnton. But this had to be set against the impact of his crimes on his two victims’ families who had been “devastated by their loss”, the judge added.

Houghton’s case reached the Appeal Court as he challenged the length of his driving ban, which the court halved to 18 months.

He had expressed his deep remorse to the families of the dead and, ruling that an 18-month disqualification was “appropriate”, Lord Justice Burnton said Houghton needed his licence for his work.